Arts & Leisure

“Little Things”: little originality

DENZEL WASHINGTON (as Deke) interrogates a suspect (Jared Leto) in “The Little Things.”

By Jim Tortolano

OK, so imagine The Equalizer vs. The Joker.

Now you have the heart of the new crime film, “The Little Things” starring Denzel Washington, Jared Leto and Rami Malek (best-known for playing Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody”).

This movie, written and directed by John Lee Hancock, has some interesting points and twists, but hardly ever ventures away from the predictable. A really suspicious potential bad guy is obvious fairly early and easily in the search for a serial killer, and the extended conclusion feels like it might have been lifted, or at least inspired, by several other flicks.

Washington plays a Kern County deputy sheriff, Joe “Deke” Deacon, who has a tragic past with his earlier employer, the Los Angeles Police Department. While on an errand to Dodgerland, he runs afoul of Detective Jimmy Baxter (Malek), who is trying to track down the killer. Coincidentally, Deke had once been involved with a similar hunt when with the LAPD.

After some gear-grinding, Deke and Jimmy team up and go looking for the murderer. There are several red herrings and then they run across Albert Sparma (Leto). That actor won acclaim for playing the Batman’s creepy laughing arch foe in the otherwise unlamented “Suicide Squad” movie. He is able to come across convincingly as the mocking, smart-aleck, maybe-he-did-it-maybe-he didn’t suspect who enjoys teasing and tormenting our heroes.

When another woman is reported missing, the two focus their attention on Sparma, who clearly delights in the cat-and-mouse aspect of what follows.

The performances are fine, and Leto clearly is channeling his “Joker” persona to good effect. But it’s hard to care particularly about much of anyone in this reworking of familiar trope, where gallant (and evil) men joust epically while helpless, helpless women are consigned – with a exception of a few minor characters –  to the role of good-looking victims. In Tinseltown – the real one or the one in this movie – even the corpses have to be model-pretty.

For the moviegoer, this is a case of been-there, done-that. The characters and the story have been done too many times before to be interesting.

“The Little Things” is rated R for violent and disturbing images, language and some nudity. It’s available in theaters (if you can find one that’s open) and HBO Max.

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